Local Relief Crews Ready to Help Oil-Soaked Animals

Local oil relief crews are standing by to help wildlife injured in the 9-mile oil spill stretching along the coast of Southern California.

At SeaWorld San Diego, a team from the Oiled Wildlife Care Network said Wednesday they have a designated building where animals covered in oil can be treated. The animals would come from the Refugio State Beach near Santa Barbara, where a broken oil pipe spilled about 105,000 gallons of oil into the ocean.

Should they be called, the SeaWorld team will bring the oil-doused marine life and birds to their facilities.

Kim Peterson with the Oiled Wildlife Care Network described the cleanup process a bird would receive in their care. Before washing can begin, the animal’s health has to be brought back to a good condition.

"Prior to the wash we are, you tube feed them, and toss fish to them so that they can rebuild their strength,” said Kim Peterson with the Oiled Wildlife Care Network.

That can take several days. Then the washing can begin. In one bucket, workers place a Dawn dish soap solution. In two other buckets is fresh water.

"It would take one person to hold the bird, possibly a second person to hold the head, and a third person would be very gently running the soapy water through the feathers," Peterson said.

The bird is washed in the soap solution, rinsed in clean water, rinsed in clean water again, and then power washed over and over until the oil is removed -- a process that can take up to an hour.

"And then all the sudden, as you go over the feather again and again, water starts beading up and you can see the waterproofing actually returning to the feathers. And it's pretty magical,” Peterson described.

After the washing, the animal is prepped to be released into the wild. That can take weeks, or even months.

NBC 7 also contacted the Southwest Fisheries Science Center and the National Marine Mammal Foundation to see if they're responding to the oil spill. Both organizations say they haven’t been called yet, but they’re ready to go as soon as they’re needed.

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